Top 10 things to see and do in Japan for HYPER JAPAN fans
There’s no shortage of things to do in Japan, but if you’re a HYPER JAPAN fan and it’s your first visit, there are a few indisputable musts. The following fit into most itineraries on even the most modest of budgets.
- Marvel at the neon lights
Tokyo’s neon lights are famous for a reason. Walk around the Kabukicho, Shibuya and Akihabara districts to see beams of light streaming upwards, advertising everything from comic book shops to tiny restaurants on the top floors of office buildings.
Glowing skylines aren’t confined to Tokyo though. Japan’s top foodie spot, Osaka has neon bright enough to compete with the capital – head to the Dotonbori area to see the iconic illuminated ‘Glico Running Man’ reflecting on the river below.
- Dip in an onsen
Japan’s volcanic landscape has gifted Japan with countless hot spring baths, or onsen. They can be found across the country and locals flock to spa towns in search of a relaxing dip. Onsenrange in size, style and etiquette – traditional Dogo Onsen is the oldest in Japan and said to be the inspiration for the Ghibli film Spirited Away; Osaka Spa World is an extravaganza with themed onsen across many floors; and in Yudanaka, snow monkeys spend lazy days in their very own onsen.
- Spot or meet a geisha
Save for the occasional clump of tourists, the Gion area of Kyoto is just as it always has been; a district with a warren of narrow alleys lined with traditional wooden houses and okiya– geisha training houses. If you’re lucky, you may spot a maiko(apprentice geisha), resplendent in kimono and kanzashi (hair ornaments), shuffling between appointments.
For something really special, it is possible to meet a maiko, learn a bit about her life, watch a traditional dance, and play a drinking game or two.
- Rub shoulders with the locals at an izakaya
To see the locals let their hair down, spend an evening at an izakaya. These informal inns with their laidback and lively atmosphere draw hardworking salarymen after a chilled beer and a bite to eat at the end of a long working day. You can’t go wrong with the food here, so try a bit of everything.
- Visit temples and shrines
While the photographs of Kyoto’s temples may be familiar, many first-time visitors are surprised by the prevalence of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It’s not even unusual to stumble across a traditional wedding or chanting monks in the areas of Tokyo where skyscrapers blot every part of the landscape. Old and new stand side by side just about everywhere; whether you’re in the heart of the city or 1,000ft up a mountain, chances are you won’t be far from a place of worship.
- Stay at a ryokan and/or a Shukubo temple lodging
For something truly special, spare a night to stay somewhere traditional. With tatami mat rooms, super soft futon beds and slidingfusumadoors, both ryokan and Shukubo temple lodgings offer the chance to experience a slice of Old Japan.
At temple lodgings you’ll eat delicious vegetarian food and wake early to channel your spiritual side at morning meditation with the monks.
While staying at a ryokan, you’ll be given a yukata to wear for your kaiseki dinner. With picture perfect little dishes that look almost too good to eat (almost!), it may well be a highlight of your culinary Japanese journey. If you have any dietary requirements, be sure to let your ryokanknow in advance. Local and seasonal food is bought in an amount that’s just perfect for the number of guests.
- Catch a glimpse of illusive Mount Fuji
It’s Japan’s most iconic mountain, but Fuji san is notoriously shy and often hides behind low cloud. Assuming the weather is on your side, Hakone National Park is the best place to indulge in some Fuji gazing. On a clear day – particularly during the winter months – the mountain casts a magnificent reflection in pretty Lake Ashi.
- Ride the shinkansen(bullet train)
Japan’s public transport is quick, efficient and always, always, on time. Gleaming bullet trains have been revolutionising cross-country travel since 1964, snaking from city to city at speeds of up to 320km/h. Despite this, carriages are peaceful, so you can pick up your perfectly curated bento box from the station and catch your thoughts as you see watch the scenery swish by.
- Get in touch with your spiritual side
Of the many schools of Buddhism in Japan, zen is the most synonymous with Japanese culture; tea ceremony, ikebana flower arrangement and martial arts are all rooted in zen teachings. Take part in a unique 10-minute zazen (seated) meditation at one of Kyoto’s beautiful temples.
- Sushi breakfast
It goes without saying that you’ll eat the best sushi of your life in Japan, but if you really want to embrace the experience and do like the locals do, partake in a sushi breakfast washed down with a bowl of miso soup. People queue around the block for fresh sushi at Tsukiji fish market – enough said.
See how many of these experiences you can tick off your list on your own holiday to Japan. The Japan travel experts, InsideJapan Toursoffer a range of small group tours and self-guided trips to suit every budget. Come along and speak to the InsideJapan team at HYPER JAPAN.